Blood draw

Health Benefits of Blood Donation

Looking for a beneficial way to give back? Donating blood only takes about an hour, yet only 3% of the eligible donor population gives each year.

One donation can save up to three lives and there are health benefits associated with donating blood, too.

  • Overall health check-in. Before you donate blood, your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, iron count and cholesterol will be checked. This mini checkup is very beneficial as it can help to identify potentially life-threatening health problems in between visits with your doctor.
  • Iron regulation. A diet containing iron-rich foods may increase the iron levels in the body. The body can only absorb a limited amount of iron which can lead to excess. The excess iron gets stored in the heart, liver, and the pancreas. This, in turn, increases the risk of liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, damage to the pancreas, and heart. For those with excess iron stores, blood donation can reduce the count of iron in the blood before it reaches dangerous levels. Blood donation is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart and liver ailments caused by the iron overload in the body.   Lower iron levels (within normal range) may also be associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Heart health. Studies have shown mixed results as it relates to donating blood and reducing the risk for a heart attack. It is known however, that excess iron in the blood can constrict blood vessels, thus increasing the risk for a heart attack. Blood donation removes the excess iron and creates more space for blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure and therefore can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Mental benefits. Donating blood can improve a donor’s mental state. The act of giving blood offers regular contact with staff and other donors and gives people the satisfaction that they are helping someone in need. Additionally, donating blood can help with stress concerns and reduce negative emotions. Eligible donors can give blood up to six times per year.

In addition to donating to others, people who meet criteria can even donate their own blood for a surgical procedure they’re having, which is called an autologous donation.  They may also be eligible to directly donate blood to a family member or friend, which is called a directed donation.

Autologous donations require the patient to:

  • Have a doctor’s prescription.
  • Schedule an appointment to donate blood and have your physician sign a donation request form.
  • Have hemoglobin/hematocrit checked to determine if it is at a satisfactory level for donation.
  • Have no active infections, heart conditions or any other health concerns that would make them ineligible to donate.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol, Tylenol or aspirin 48 hours before the donation.
  • Donations can be made every four to seven days, but the donation must be completed three days before the surgery takes place.

Do you donate blood? Share why you give back this way in the comments.

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey, senior medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Learn more about blood donation by reading these blogs:

Photo credit: Pranidchakan Boonrom

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